Monday, January 29, 2007

#87 - Coming Out of the Closet

Coming Out of the Closet

5/3/06 (#87)

As I stood amidst the neatly pressed oxford shirts and flannel skirts, overwhelmed by a scent I usually breathed in whiffs and traces (2% perfume, 3% Tide), I imagined a variety of outcomes---each in distinctly cinematic scenarios--- to this suddenly urgent situation. And in every one of them, the third reel featured a bellicose Mr. Wilson shredding his vocal chords with epithets sharpened especially for me. I stood in the darkness, thin strips of light slipping through the angled louvers, wondering if the unbreakable rule of "no boys" in Margaret's room also applied to the closet. A technicality, perhaps, but one I endeavored to exploit in most of those dreaded third reels. Up to that day, no strange boy had ever breached the confines of Margaret's bedroom; after that day, I doubt the Y chromosome made an encore performance for quite some time.

Margaret's parents had come home early from a dinner engagement---VERY early. We were both wise enough not to take any chances by pushing our luck to the last minute (an assertion that's hard to defend considering I was trapped in a second floor closet), using for our calculation an estimation of her folk's eating pace. For them to have arrived home this early, they must have eaten their meals with the abandon of Sesame Street's Cookie Monster.

We hadn't actually been doing anything but kissing (at 16 I was the first boy to visit her bedroom---you can extrapolate the comparative level of exclusivity that her body possessed), and as I stood there in the darkness, that fact broke my heart: If caught, it was sure to be assumed that we had been up there writing a new addendum to the Kama Sutra, and if one is going to be punished for THAT crime, it would have been nice to have committed the offense.

Margaret had rushed downstairs to greet her parents, coming upstairs after a brief stint of courteous small talk with her folk's guests to deliver the grim status report: They had decided to have drinks and dessert at home, and had taken up residence in the living room---her dad's chair angled to offer a perfect view of the staircase. For the moment, I was going nowhere.

In my eyes, I wasn't going anywhere EVER. It was Saturday night, her folks were in for the evening, and at dawn they would begin their usual Sunday morning ritual of coffee and the Sunday Globe (Boston's weekend paper that had more sections than Margaret had shoes---and as the uneven terrain beneath my feet confirmed, Margaret had a lot of shoes.) I imagined this closet as my defacto prison cell, thin slices of pizza occasionally slipped through the slats in an effort to sustain me (cheese, no less--the gaps were too narrow to accommodate toppings) until some future date when both of her parents left the house simultaneously.

That, or we fess up and admit what happened. I offered that solution. Margaret looked at me incredulously, as if I had suggested that we troop downstairs and demonstrate the particular things we weren't doing. She refused to believe that semi-permanent confinement and confession were the only options. (And if it had to be one of those, Margaret's tone made it clear that I'd better get used to a diet of cheese pizza.)

We pondered possible escape plans: The second floor was a broken-ankle jump to the frozen Maine ground below; a fire drill was ruled out, mostly because we weren't in an elementary school; I contemplated hanging out the window and pretending to be in the act of climbing into Margaret's room, but the only way up would have been to shimmy a plastic downspout that could barely withstand the body mass of a heavy gray squirrel let alone a rutting teenager. Finally, Margaret devised a plan that seemed to have some plausibility. (Of course, faced with an indefinite sentence of cheese pizza and striped sunlight, I'd have gone along with anything.)

Simple, she overstated. We'll call Jim, have him come over for a visit but come in the back door where he will not be seen. She would make up a story that required her to bring her guest upstairs, and errand completed, she and her guests (now plural) would descend and return to the kitchen. Simple. She went downstairs and made the call to Jim, returning with wild eyes and an ETA.

While we waited for the cavalry, we kissed feverishly, energized by adrenaline, clenched as if it was our last embrace before I went off to prison. And I'm glad we did, because had we not, I'd have spent that time fully expecting to actually go to prison. Margaret's Dad was a lawyer---and if caught, his idea of justice surely wouldn't have been the same as mine. (And I doubt he'd have been willing to split the difference.)

Jim lived about 20 minutes away, and bless his heart, he arrived in 21 minutes. As she had instructed, he came to the back door, avoiding the populated living room. I could hear Margaret's noisy greeting, and her brisk effort to hurry Jim upstairs, far too hasty in its execution, but it felt like perfect timing at that moment. She simply didn't want to bother her parents and their guests, that was all. Her rush past the living room archway raised suspicion with her Mom, but by the time Mrs. W. got up, Jim and Margaret were up the stairs.

"Margaret, will you come down here please?"

We all obeyed, the three of us coming to the stairs en masse. "Hi Jim. Oh, Hi Bill. I didn't see you go up," then she turned her attention to Margaret: "What did you say you were doing?"

I have no recollection of any further words spoken. Words were spoken, but it was the voice of Charlie Brown's schoolteacher to me. Over Mrs. Wilson's shoulder I could see Mr. Wilson, who wore an expression similar to Jimmy Stewart's midway through Rope, when he suspects something is going on even though he doesn't know that anything happened that should be worthy of suspicion. I meekly waved hello, fully expecting a patriarchal intervention, but he was drawn back into the conversation with his guests, and seemed content to let sleeping dogs lie. I felt Margaret tug upon my sleeve, pulling me toward freedom and away from possible inquisition. I followed, standing by the stove with Jim exchanging staged small talk and comments pregnant with dual meaning: "Thanks again for the ride, Jim. I really appreciate it." While it seemed we were home free, I still had a deathgrip on that oven handle, praying that my Poe-esque heart wasn't making the racket that it seemed to be making.

Margaret had slipped off to the living room, telling her folks that we were going out to Howard Johnson's for an ice cream. Once approval was delivered, we walked out through the front, exchanged courtesies with the adults, and hopped into Jim's truck for the celebratory ride to Howard Johnson's.

It would be trite to end with some corny variation on, "Freedom never tasted so sweet"---but accurate to say that ice cream never did.

*the names have been respectfully changed. Even Mine.

©2006 wpreagan

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